Sunday, September 18, 2011
On the Department of Grace and Mercy
With my tongue slightly in my cheek I want to offer an idea I have
held for a while. We make a minister of grace and mercy in the
cabinet. Her job, and must be “her” is to make sure we are all
happy. First of all, that is a tall order since almost no one knows
what real happiness is. So let me say at the outset that the best way
to be happy and content and to have a great deal of your self is to
have been loved throughout childhood. If you have them (parents) you
will have yourself. If they fulfilled your needs you will be whole
and content throughout life. No one else can “make” your happy. So
what can my minister do? She can go into the schools and pick out the
problem children, and instead of punishment she will explain about the
imprints and pain and use the child’s hurt to explain his act-out. He
will learn about himself and finally how to control himself, and the
other kids will also learn about feelings and how they drive all of
us. So a big piece of what goes on in school, many hours a day, will
not be wasted but will be used as the key learning experience, much
more important than learning about this war and that. They will learn
what it takes to get along with others and how feelings interferes
with it or enhances it. They will learn what goes wrong with
marriages and why. They will learn why people get sick and how
repression fits in with all this. It will indeed be merciful. It
will save a good deal of misery and help people be happier.
Remember, being fully loved is what makes us happy; all the rest is
playing catch-up. But that is important, too.
Then my minister will hurry over to hospitals and teach the kids
about their illness, what it really entails, how it happens and
exactly how the therapy will work. Here the child learns about
medicine his body and medication and therapy. He learns what diets do
to the system and why. No more mysteries; we use the child’s
experience to learn from. That is a good way of learning---out of
personal experience. You say doctors don’t have the time. Well that
will be the job of my minister of grace and mercy. She will be very
busy but she will save so much suffering and money. No more special
schools for disobedient kids. They will learn about themselves and
then help other kids. Who better to do it? It is being done is some
prisons. Yes, for a while we need all the institutions for neurotics
but there is something we can do about it.
My minister will organize child rearing and birth giving practices
in many communities so that we all have a better shot at life. Just
simple things like not giving heavy anesthetics to those giving
birth. Like putting the baby immediately with the mother, and on
and on. Like teaching that hugs and kisses are essential…throughout
childhood. Boys need it too and not just to the age of five. That
children need their parents, not boarding school, usually a dumping
ground for harried parents. They need individual attention
And above all, let’s the get idea of homework straight. I
recently was at the house of a friend who was trying to get his son to
do his homework. It is a tough but good school, he argued to me. And I
thought, wouldn’t it be better to play with him, to talk to him about
life and love, to hug him and kiss him, and then help with his
homework. Because all this will help ensure his happiness, and
isn’t that what we are all after. A well child is one who will be
successful whether he does all of his homework or not. But that
homework needs to be secondary to making the child happy. My minister
needs to rush in and warn against “tough” schools. They are not
necessarily the best. “Oh!”, You say, “he must learn or how will he
succeed in life.” Make him happy and he will succeed. Do not worry.
If he is totally loved he is happy. Trust me. I have relatives who
were totally loved and all of the kids, all of them, are very
successful. Would you rather have a very successful child who is
constantly miserable? A driven successful person lacks love, by
definition; otherwise he would not be driven.
Just a few hints: ask a child what he wants to eat at least once
in a while. Help him make decisions about his life and what will make
him happy. Where does want to go on Sunday? Etc. etc. What
college does he want to go to? Not the favorite of the parent, who can
help, but he has to make the decision. In other words, we ask kids,
“what will make you happy today?” If you think that would have been
wonderful in your lifetime with your parents, then you know it is
right for your kids. It is not utopian; it is possible now. All it
takes a little change and then watch the difference. Ah love.
(I will add here a bit from another piece I wrote to make my point
We can tell the level of pain and its time frame by the kind of
symptom or behavior that is apparent. When something happens in the
present it resonates with or sets off something earlier. In that way
anger that dips into the first line and becomes rage. Or fear becomes
terror, feeling disappointed in the present becomes profound
hopelessness on the deeper level. In the same way when the first line
is close we may go from a mild headache to a severe migraine. It is
not a different entity; it is a continuum which makes each symptom
deeper and more aggravated. So there is some slight adversity in the
present that resonates deeper down and the person goes for a Xanax.
He is quelling first line, deep imprints. Quelling terror and
hopelessness that goes along with the terror. After all, if there is
massive anesthetic at birth and the child cannot struggle to get born
there is terror and hopelessness, and the beginnings of addiction. Of
course the origin is mysterious and unknown. It was immediately
covered over by the gating system.
Thus, each level accounts for something deeper and more damaging as
resonance deeps down into our primal unconscious and triggers off
inordinate behavior or symptoms. First line events, therefore,
represent out of control symptoms and behavior—drug taking. It forces
us into over the top reactions. As long as that bottom rung, the
first line imprint is left dangling and not integrated there will
always be the tendency to addiction. It is that first line level that
contributes to profound addiction; and of course, until it is out of
the way we will always be vulnerable to drinking or drug taking. And
too, it will shorten our lives. There are those who say once an
alcoholic or drug taker always one. Not true. It seems so genetic
but it is not; it is epigenetic (of which I have written a lot). I
have treated heavy drinkers and drug takers with success but only
after arriving on the deepest levels of the brain. A caveat; they
must be treated in house for some time before getting back out on the
Review of "Beyond Belief"
This thought-provoking and important book shows how people are drawn toward dangerous beliefs.
“Belief can manifest itself in world-changing ways—and did, in some of history’s ugliest moments, from the rise of Adolf Hitler to the Jonestown mass suicide in 1979. Arthur Janov, a renowned psychologist who penned The Primal Scream, fearlessly tackles the subject of why and how strong believers willingly embrace even the most deranged leaders.
Beyond Belief begins with a lucid explanation of belief systems that, writes Janov, “are maps, something to help us navigate through life more effectively.” While belief systems are not presented as inherently bad, the author concentrates not just on why people adopt belief systems, but why “alienated individuals” in particular seek out “belief systems on the fringes.” The result is a book that is both illuminating and sobering. It explores, for example, how a strongly-held belief can lead radical Islamist jihadists to murder others in suicide acts. Janov writes, “I believe if people had more love in this life, they would not be so anxious to end it in favor of some imaginary existence.”
One of the most compelling aspects of Beyond Belief is the author’s liberal use of case studies, most of which are related in the first person by individuals whose lives were dramatically affected by their involvement in cults. These stories offer an exceptional perspective on the manner in which belief systems can take hold and shape one’s experiences. Joan’s tale, for instance, both engaging and disturbing, describes what it was like to join the Hare Krishnas. Even though she left the sect, observing that participants “are stunted in spiritual awareness,” Joan considers returning someday because “there’s a certain protection there.”
Janov’s great insight into cultish leaders is particularly interesting; he believes such people have had childhoods in which they were “rejected and unloved,” because “only unloved people want to become the wise man or woman (although it is usually male) imparting words of wisdom to others.” This is just one reason why Beyond Belief is such a thought-provoking, important book.”
Barry Silverstein, Freelance Writer
Quotes for "Life Before Birth"
“Life Before Birth is a thrilling journey of discovery, a real joy to read. Janov writes like no one else on the human mind—engaging, brilliant, passionate, and honest.
He is the best writer today on what makes us human—he shows us how the mind works, how it goes wrong, and how to put it right . . . He presents a brand-new approach to dealing with depression, emotional pain, anxiety, and addiction.”
Paul Thompson, PhD, Professor of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine
Art Janov, one of the pioneers of fetal and early infant experiences and future mental health issues, offers a robust vision of how the earliest traumas of life can percolate through the brains, minds and lives of individuals. He focuses on both the shifting tides of brain emotional systems and the life-long consequences that can result, as well as the novel interventions, and clinical understanding, that need to be implemented in order to bring about the brain-mind changes that can restore affective equanimity. The transitions from feelings of persistent affective turmoil to psychological wholeness, requires both an understanding of the brain changes and a therapist that can work with the affective mind at primary-process levels. Life Before Birth, is a manifesto that provides a robust argument for increasing attention to the neuro-mental lives of fetuses and infants, and the widespread ramifications on mental health if we do not. Without an accurate developmental history of troubled minds, coordinated with a recognition of the primal emotional powers of the lowest ancestral regions of the human brain, therapists will be lost in their attempt to restore psychological balance.
Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D.
Bailey Endowed Chair of Animal Well Being Science
Washington State University
Dr. Janov’s essential insight—that our earliest experiences strongly influence later well being—is no longer in doubt. Thanks to advances in neuroscience, immunology, and epigenetics, we can now see some of the mechanisms of action at the heart of these developmental processes. His long-held belief that the brain, human development, and psychological well being need to studied in the context of evolution—from the brainstem up—now lies at the heart of the integration of neuroscience and psychotherapy.
Grounded in these two principles, Dr. Janov continues to explore the lifelong impact of prenatal, birth, and early experiences on our brains and minds. Simultaneously “old school” and revolutionary, he synthesizes traditional psychodynamic theories with cutting-edge science while consistently highlighting the limitations of a strict, “top-down” talking cure. Whether or not you agree with his philosophical assumptions, therapeutic practices, or theoretical conclusions, I promise you an interesting and thought-provoking journey.
Lou Cozolino, PsyD, Professor of Psychology, Pepperdine University
In Life Before Birth Dr. Arthur Janov illuminates the sources of much that happens during life after birth. Lucidly, the pioneer of primal therapy provides the scientific rationale for treatments that take us through our original, non-verbal memories—to essential depths of experience that the superficial cognitive-behavioral modalities currently in fashion cannot possibly touch, let alone transform.
Gabor Maté MD, author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction
An expansive analysis! This book attempts to explain the impact of critical developmental windows in the past, implores us to improve the lives of pregnant women in the present, and has implications for understanding our children, ourselves, and our collective future. I’m not sure whether primal therapy works or not, but it certainly deserves systematic testing in well-designed, assessor-blinded, randomized controlled clinical trials.
K.J.S. Anand, MBBS, D. Phil, FAACP, FCCM, FRCPCH, Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Senior Scholar, Center for Excellence in Faith and Health, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare System
A baby's brain grows more while in the womb than at any time in a child's life. Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script That Rules Our Lives is a valuable guide to creating healthier babies and offers insight into healing our early primal wounds. Dr. Janov integrates the most recent scientific research about prenatal development with the psychobiological reality that these early experiences do cast a long shadow over our entire lifespan. With a wealth of experience and a history of successful psychotherapeutic treatment, Dr. Janov is well positioned to speak with clarity and precision on a topic that remains critically important.
Paula Thomson, PsyD, Associate Professor, California State University, Northridge & Professor Emeritus, York University
"I am enthralled.
Dr. Janov has crafted a compelling and prophetic opus that could rightly dictate
PhD thesis topics for decades to come. Devoid of any "New Age" pseudoscience,
this work never strays from scientific orthodoxy and yet is perfectly accessible and
downright fascinating to any lay person interested in the mysteries of the human psyche."
Dr. Bernard Park, MD, MPH
His new book “Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” shows that primal therapy, the lower-brain therapeutic method popularized in the 1970’s international bestseller “Primal Scream” and his early work with John Lennon, may help alleviate depression and anxiety disorders, normalize blood pressure and serotonin levels, and improve the functioning of the immune system.
One of the book’s most intriguing theories is that fetal imprinting, an evolutionary strategy to prepare children to cope with life, establishes a permanent set-point in a child's physiology. Baby's born to mothers highly anxious during pregnancy, whether from war, natural disasters, failed marriages, or other stressful life conditions, may thus be prone to mental illness and brain dysfunction later in life. Early traumatic events such as low oxygen at birth, painkillers and antidepressants administered to the mother during pregnancy, poor maternal nutrition, and a lack of parental affection in the first years of life may compound the effect.
In making the case for a brand-new, unified field theory of psychotherapy, Dr. Janov weaves together the evolutionary theories of Jean Baptiste Larmarck, the fetal development studies of Vivette Glover and K.J.S. Anand, and fascinating new research by the psychiatrist Elissa Epel suggesting that telomeres—a region of repetitive DNA critical in predicting life expectancy—may be significantly altered during pregnancy.
After explaining how hormonal and neurologic processes in the womb provide a blueprint for later mental illness and disease, Dr. Janov charts a revolutionary new course for psychotherapy. He provides a sharp critique of cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, and other popular “talk therapy” models for treating addiction and mental illness, which he argues do not reach the limbic system and brainstem, where the effects of early trauma are registered in the nervous system.
“Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” is scheduled to be published by NTI Upstream in October 2011, and has tremendous implications for the future of modern psychology, pediatrics, pregnancy, and women’s health.